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TheBrownsvilleHerald: Starr County opposes spraying

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Rio Grande City, June 29, 2016 | comments

Starr County opposes spraying


RIO GRANDE CITY — The Starr County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution opposing aerial spraying of herbicides along the banks of the Rio Grande which environmentalists argue would pose safety risks to residents.

The spraying is part of an effort by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board to eradicate Carrizo cane along the river.

The cane is viewed as an environmental hazard because of its high water absorption and does not provide any benefit to the ecosystem, according to the Water Conservation Board.

The plant, which can grow to over 25 feet tall, is also considered an obstacle to border security efforts by providing a hiding place for people who cross the border illegally.

In January, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, announced directives for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to work with the Water Conservation Board to speed up the eradication of Carrizo cane.

“I have long been concerned about the impact of Carrizo cane and other invasive plant species on the activities of CBP agents along the Rio Grande,” Cuellar said in the January news release. “An effective eradication program will give our CBP and Border Patrol agents greater visibility while enhancing officer safety when patrolling Texas’ southern border.”

The concern lies in the herbicides that would be sprayed which, according to the resolution, contain chemicals including Glyphosate, a broad-spectrum herbicide, which some studies have found to be carcinogenic.

An aerial spraying campaign by the U.S. Border Patrol was under consideration in 2008. The spraying would have been conducted along the river in Laredo but the method lead to a lawsuit from the Rio GrandeInternationalStudyCenter. The case was settled in 2009 with an agreement that spraying would never be done along that stretch of the riverbank.

As an alternate method to combat the plant, the county points to research conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Through the Agricultural Research Service, the department launched a pilot program that researches how wasps and insects affect the Carrizo cane.

If successful, the insects, which are known to feed on the plant, will reduce its biomass, increasing visibility in the area.

By approving the resolution, StarrCounty joins WebbCounty, ZapataCounty and the city of Laredo in opposing aerial spraying.

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